sequences & series

Quick links:
downloadable teaching materials for sequences & series
► syllabus content for the Algebra Topic: SL syllabus (see syllabus section 1.1); HL syllabus (see syllabus section 1.1).

Although it's interesting (and I would say worthwhile) to discuss sequences that are defined by recursive (or iterative) formulas - such as the Fibonacci sequence - the fact is that the only sequences/series indicated in either the SL or HL syllabus are arithmetic and geometric sequences/series which have explicit (or closed form) formulas.

Answering questions on sequences & series often relies on applying an appropriate formula. Since students have access to the appropriate formula booklet (SL or HL) at all times they do not need to memorize the formulas. I do strongly encourage students to state the formulas "in words" rather than simply reciting symbols. For example, the formula should be read as "the nth term of an arithmetic sequence is equal to the first term plus the product of the # of 'gaps' between terms and the common difference." I think that this promotes greater understanding of precisely what the formula does and encourages students to communicate mathematical expressions clearly.

Limits and Convergence

These two concepts - limit of a function, and convergence of a series - are a couple of the more challenging concepts to illustrate and explain.  Fortunately, in both SL and HL, the wording in the syllabus is "informal ideas of limit and convergence."  This statement is found in section 6.1 of both syllabi in the lead up to the limit definition of the derivative.  The most appropriate time to first discuss, and explore, ideas of limits and convergence is with infinite series. Students may accept the formula for the sum of an infinite geometric series given that \(\left| r \right| < 1\), and they may even understand the proof of this formula; but they usually are not shown (informally) that the defining feature of a convergent infinite series is that the limit of the series is the limit of its sequence of partial sums. This does not need to be approached formally as it is in the HL Calculus option topic, but I do think it is worthwhile to spend a few minutes in class demonstrating (again, informally) what the limit of partial sums looks like visually for a couple of infinite series - one that is known to converge and one is known to diverge.  It's also nice for students to realize that not all series are either arithmetic or geometric.

Click here to open a Geogebra applet which dynamically shows the sum of n terms as n increases for the geometric series \(\sum\limits_{k = 1}^n {{{\left( {\frac{4}{5}} \right)}^{k - 1}}} \) that converges, and for the infamous harmonic series \(\sum\limits_{k = 1}^n {\frac{1}{k}} \)  that diverges.  The applet can be used to compare any two series (within reason).  One just needs to enter other expressions for \({a_k}\) and \({b_k}\) in the approriate box; and the maximum value of n can be adjusted also.

4 questions - ‘accessible’ to ‘discriminating’

download: 4_Qs_sequences_series_1_with_answers ; 4_Qs_sequences_series_1_solutions_notes

accessible SL question

moderate SL / accessible HL question

discriminating SL / moderate HL question

discriminating HL question


 ♦ teaching materials

EXS_1-1-20v2_SLHL_sequences_series smiley laugh
10 exercises on arithmetic & geometric sequences & series (answers included); corrected version 2

EXS_1-1-40v1_HL_seq_series_binomial_theorem laugh
sequences, series & binomial theorem - exercise set for HL (answers included)

10 exercises on sequences & series for SL and HL (answers included)

WRK_1-1-40v2_SLHL_series_sigma_notation smiley laugh
worksheet for arithmetic & geometric series, along with sigma notation; 3 worked examples and 3 exercises with worked solutions

WRK_1-1-50v1_SLHL_sequences_series  laugh   worksheet for arithmetic & geometric series (good follow-up to previous worksheet 1-1-40 above); 4 worked examples and 6 exercises with answers

Quiz_HL_seq_series_v1  laugh
Quiz with 5 questions - 3 with GDC allowed, and 2 with no GDC. Quiz can work for SL but the questions are a bit more moderate to discrimating in difficulty level. Worked solutions available below.

Quiz_HL_seq_series_v1_SOL_KEY  laugh
Worked solutions for the HL sequences & series Quiz above

SL Test - sequences & series; 9 questions - GDC allowed on all questions (worked solutions below)

worked solutions for all 9 questions on SL Test - sequences & series (above)

Test1_HL_seq_series_bin_thm_v1 laugh
HL Test #1 - sequences, series, binomial theorem.  GDC allowed on all questions.  Answers on 2nd page.  Worked solutions available below.

Test1_HL_seq_series_bin_thm_SOL_KEY_v1 laugh
Worked solutions for HL Test #1 on sequences, series & binomial theorem above.

Test2_HL_seq_series_bin_thm_v1  laugh
HL Test #2 - sequences & series, binomial theorem. GDC allowed on all questions. Worked solutions available below.

Test2_HL_seq_series_bin_thm_v1_SOL_KEY  laugh
Worked solutions for HL Test #2 on sequences & series, and binomial theorem above.

Test3_HL_seq_series_bin_thm_v1 laugh
HL Test #3; content: sequences & series; binomial expansions sigma notation and binomial theorem; 10 questions: 5 with no GDC, and 5 with GDC. Worked solutions available below.

Test3_HL_seq_series_bin_thm_v1_SOL_KEY laugh
Worked solutions for HL Test #3 on sequences & series, binomial expansions, sigma notation, binomial theorem; no GDC and GDC allowed questions

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